No 241 Toll Road Extension through South Orange County Action Email Form

Please fill out this contact form to let elected officials and representatives know that you do not want the 241 Toll Road Extension through South Orange County.

This is an extremely large email being sent to many people so it may show a spinning arrow but you will receive an email confirmation showing it did go through. Just click submit once. If you click submit repeatedly it is being sent repeatedly to the recipients.

Your Message

I am resident of [your-city] and am writing to express my concern and opposition to the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) proposal to extend the State Route 241 (SR-241) extension through established and historic communities in the cities of San Clemente and San Juan. What is equally concerning is that the California Department of Transportation, an agency that is funded and supported entirely by citizens’ tax dollars would allow for such a massive and controversial project to be streamlined without any meaningful public input and involvement. Page 1 of Caltrans’ Public Participation Plan states:

“Caltrans’ mission to involve the public in transportation decision making and responds to federal laws and regulations that emphasize public engagement.”

What is even equally concerning is that Caltrans, District 12 has agreed to allow TCA to participate in a pilot program that allows TCA, Caltrans or the Federal Highway Administration to substitute California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the Environmental Review Process (Settlement Agreement Item, page 15). This kind of pilot program is unheard of for a project with this level of public controversy, public opposition, significant unavoidable and unmitigable environmental impacts, and legal history. According to the Southern California Association of Government’s Final 2017 Federal Transportation Improvement Program (Project ID ORA052), TCA is receiving $7.2 million in DEMO-SAFETEA-LU federal funds for the SR-241 Extension Project of the project, by law any agency receiving federal funds for a project is required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. TCA’s SR-241 Extension is legally required to comply with CEQA and NEPA, not one or the other. In addition, this pilot program and Settlement Agreement was approved without any kind of public input or review by elected officials or citizens in the affected jurisdictions.

TCA’s decision to move forward with the SR-241 Extension is based on an Ascertainment Study that only interviewed 45 residents. How can TCA’s justify their decision to spend millions of dollars on additional studies and $1.7 billion to construct a project that was already defeated and rejected twice! The decision to move forward with the SR-241 extension should not be based on such limited public outreach and the opinion of 45 people, many who do not live in the affected communities.

TCA claims to have conducted extensive public outreach for their first two public forums. TCA failed to notify residents in the affected communities properly. As a resident of [your-city], living in one of the affected communities of South Orange County, I can tell you that I did not receive an invitation to either public forum. The lack of public notification is obvious, TCA’s Director of Environmental Planning (Valarie McFall) stated at the June 5 meeting that less than 100 people were in attendance at the two first meetings. This is in contrast to the June 5 meeting, where TCA sent out over 25,000 mailers and over 2,000 people attended the forum and TCA had to turn people away from participating in the meeting and presentation. This large attendance was based entirely on one fact; the residents of the affected communities now know about the Settlement Agreement reached in November 2016 and are aware that TCA is moving forward with the 241 Extension through our existing communities. We have seen TCA’s consultants in our hills doing surveys, setting up survey markers, doing aerial surveys every day for the past two months. Psomas, TCA’s consultant has confirmed with one of our community members that they are in fact working for TCA and they are studying Idea 14.

TCA continues to claim that the 18 ideas proposed under their Go Mobility study were ideas that are based on input from local officials and participants at the public forums. When in reality, TCA already had developed the majority of these ideas and had passed out handouts and graphics depicting the ideas at the two 2016 public forums prior to any public involvement or input. At the October 5, 2016 Public Forum, surveys cards were passed out to participants and they were forced to select from the preselected 18 mobility ideas identified by TCA. The survey cards were skewed and did not give participants the opportunity to come up with ideas. They were forced to select from the preselected 18 ideas! TCA’s survey cards asked if they preferred the 241 extension to La Pata or 241 extension to Cristianitos Road. When forced to make a decision between the two alternatives, 12% of the participants chose La Pata and 25% chose Cristianitos and the remaining 63% of the participants either crossed out the 2 options or wrote on the cards that they were opposed to any 241 extension.

A review of all the community feedback notes for the Public Forum held on June 20th public forum show that only 4 people in attendance were in favor of any SR-241 extension. So how can TCA continue to push for the 241 extension when it is clear from the lack of public input at these two meetings that the 241 extension is not supported by the public?!

I was in attendance at the June 5, 2017 meeting and the public was not allowed to participate or interact with the panel. I have never been to a Caltrans public workshop with so many restrictions on the public’s ability to participate and interact with the local transportation officials. It was a huge disappointment. The moderator screened the comment cards received prior to asking the panelist questions and in many cases, misread or misrepresented the questions. I know because he selected one of my questions and tried to dismiss it because he said it was ineligible, but he was reading it from the back of the card instead of the front. I have him doing both of these things on video. TCA’s staff searched our bags and purses to make sure we didn't come in with pre-written questions or comments. If these were found, they were confiscated. Women were searched with scanners and patted down. Men were allowed to enter without any fuss. Why? TCA's videographer required participants that wanted to leave video testimony to sign a statement saying that TCA had the ability to edit the comments in the video. How can they legally do that to public comment? This is not Caltrans’ process for receiving public comment.

As requested by TCA, the residents of San Clemente have been sending emails to TCA’s board for months asking them to drop the 241 extension ideas that cut through any existing neighborhood but they have not. They won't return any emails we have sent them. How can we trust that they are listening to the public when they refuse to acknowledge our concerns?

At the June 5th Public Forum, Valarie McFall (TCA, Chief of Environmental Planning) and Lan Zhou (Deputy Director, Caltrans District 12) told the public they welcomed our input on the 18 ideas that are part of their mobility study and they are willing to add ideas and even drop ideas if the public makes requests. One panelist said, not building the project is an alternative too. Per their direction and at their request, I am requesting that Mobility Ideas 6, 8, 13, 14, and 17 be dropped from further consideration. These alternatives some of which TCA carried forward from their 2008 EIR/EIS would result in significant unavoidable impacts to the established cities of San Juan and San Clemente. Mobility Idea 14 was previously identified as the Central Corridor Alignment in TCA’s 2008 EIR/EIS. According to TCA’s 2008 EIR/EIS this alternative would result in the following significant and unavoidable impacts:
Community Impacts: 593 homes removed and 1,380 residents displaced. 106 businesses displaced and 1,100 employees displaced. Substantial loss of sales tax revenue to the city of San Clemente;
Environmental Impacts: Loss of 53.7 acres of wetlands in the project limits (more than the green alignment and the highest wetland impact of ANY alternative studied in the 2008 EIR/EIS ) and loss of 193 acres of Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. Take of the following endangered species: Peregrine Falcon, California Gnatcatcher and Least Bell's Vireo.
Any alignment that would result in eminent domain of residences, businesses, protected open space, school, parks, businesses or requires the placement of a highway within 200-500 feet of any sensitive receptor should not even be allowed to move forward into the EIR/EIS evaluation. If you are truly and sincerely requesting the public’s input and value the opinion of those in the affected communities, please drop these alternatives from further consideration.

It seems that Caltrans is also allowing TCA to streamline the PID process based on the information on TCA’s handouts provided at the meeting. TCA estimate the PID process to take place between February to August 2017 and the EIR/EIS scoping to being in the Fall 2017. Usually the PID process takes 1-2 years, again it is unclear why a project with this level of controversy would be allowed to get away with a streamlined process under Caltrans and FHWA’s legal review. This doesn’t give the public any time to help with the development of future ideas for the mobility study. I am therefore requesting that this PID phase be extended to allow for more meaningful public input and involvement.

We would like to begin the discussion of the TCA being dissolved due to fiscal sustainability concerns. The Orange County Supervisors, Lisa Bartlett in particular seems to have too much power being on the OC Supervisors, the TCA and OCTA Board, we would like to have our residents have representation for mobility solutions that are not driven by the TCA as they only build toll roads.

Thank you.

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